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Pats tab Jonnu

New England signs Tennessee tight end

Free agency is cranking up, and the Patriots of all teams have been the busiest team on Day 1. They’ve bolstered their defense by signing Matthew Judon and Jalen Mills. For fantasy purposes, however, it’s the signing of Jonnu Smith that’s most notable.

Smith and Hunter Henry are the best two of the tight ends available, and the Patriots chose to move quickly, agreeing on a deal on the first day of the legal tampering period. Smith’s agent indicates it’s a four-year contract worth $50 million, with $31.25 million fully guaranteed.

Bill Belichick is serious, obviously, about adding some pop to his team’s tight end situation. He drafted a pair of tight ends last year, but neither caught many passes as rookies.

The Patriots really haven’t gotten much out of their tight ends since 2018. Over the last two years, their tight ends have caught 30 fewer passes than any other team. The Jets and Panthers in the same time period have had the next least productive tight ends, and those teams have been been over 50 percent more productive than the Patriots at that position (using PPR scoring).

TIGHT ENDS, TEAM PRODUCTION (2019-20)
TeamNoYardsAvgTDPPR/G
Las Vegas2522,84611.32220.9
Philadelphia2622,81710.81920.6
Kansas City2262,86112.71619.0
Baltimore1982,34811.92317.8
San Francisco1982,30011.61416.0
LA Rams1992,15910.81115.0
Tennessee1701,91511.31914.9
Tampa Bay1601,89911.91613.9
Indianapolis1681,86211.11513.9
Miami1571,79011.41613.5
New Orleans1301,67712.92113.2
Green Bay1401,54811.12113.2
Minnesota1611,63510.21513.0
Houston1461,68011.51612.8
Denver1661,77810.71112.8
LA Chargers1491,72011.51412.7
NY Giants1811,7259.5812.5
Atlanta1581,64810.41312.5
Dallas1701,6379.61112.5
Cleveland1311,39410.61811.8
Seattle1521,4489.51311.7
Detroit1491,59410.71111.7
Chicago1311,1608.91210.0
Cincinnati1281,1979.479.1
Washington1191,1559.799.0
Pittsburgh1241,0658.688.7
Buffalo881,06212.1138.5
Arizona881,18013.4118.5
Jacksonville1211,0969.158.1
NY Jets858249.796.9
Carolina969489.956.9
New England5567312.234.4

Smith gives them more sizzle and play-making position at that position. Whether Cam Newton is good enough to help Smith post top-10 tight end numbers can be debated (I tend to think not).

With this signing, my interest leaving in Anthony Firkser goes up. He’s had some success filling in for Smith in Tennessee. I expect they’ll be moving to get him back under contract.

—Ian Allan

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